Toronto Maple Leafs 2011 draft review

By John-Eric Iannicello
Photo: Tyler Biggs brings a solid combination of skill, physicality, and truculence to the Maple Leafs organization. (Photo courtesy of DJ Powers/HF)

Brian Burke started his draft-day off by acquiring veteran puck-moving defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche. The trade saw the Maple Leafs move the Boston Bruin’s 2nd round pick in 2012, which they previously acquired in the Tomas Kaberle deal. The pick was originally a conditional selection, but became a 2nd round pick when the Bruins made it to the finals.

Burke didn’t just add assets on the ice; he also added an important asset to the front office. Ex-Atlanta Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley joined the Maple Leafs management staff on June 24th. Although his position isn’t defined yet, he’s supposedly going to work with both the amateur and pro scouts.

The Maple Leafs conditional 6th round pick, 160th pick that was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Justin Pogge, was sent back to the Ducks after failing to meet the picks condition. In exchange, the Maple Leafs received the Ducks 6th round selection in 2012.

Burke made it known that he was looking for size, speed and character in this draft. And all of his selections have their fair share of those three traits. The Maple Leafs entered the draft with 11 selections and left with nine.

Tyler Biggs, RW – USA U-18 (USHL)
1st Round, 22nd overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 210lbs

The Maple Leafs first selection in the draft saw them move up by packaging their 30th and 39th selection for the Anaheim Ducks 22nd overall pick. With that pick, they drafted Tyler Bigg’s who they felt embodied all the necessary tools to be a power-forward at the NHL level.

Maple Leaf scouts project Biggs to be a power-forward who can open up space for his linemates and be a complimentary forward in a top-six role. His play has drawn similarities to Bruins forward Milan Lucic.

The 18-year-old played for the United States National U-18 team this past year where he recorded 19 goals, and 12 assist for 31 points. He also tallied a truculent 161 penalty minutes. On the international stage, Biggs captained the United States U-18 team and was a physical force – at times too physical. He tallied 49 penalty minutes in only six games. While he wasn’t much of a factor offensively, he did score a key goal against Canada in overtime.

"I think I’m your prototypical power forward that can try to do it all," Biggs said when describing himself. "I like to play with an edge and play very physical and I have an offensive side as well."

Born in Cincinnati, the son of AHL-star and Mississauga native Don Biggs has extended family throughout the Toronto area. Only living one year in Toronto himself, Biggs expressed his delight at being drafted by the blue and white.

"Yeah, for me and my family right now it’s a dream come true," Biggs stated. "I grew up watching them; watching Hockey Night in Canada with my dad. I have all my relatives back home blowing up my phone right now. I realize."

Biggs is committed to attending Miami University next season, but also has the opportunity to play in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals (who own his OHL rights). Biggs, however, stresses that he’s focused on the NCAA.

"You know, I think there is always going to be talk about it," Biggs said about his future next season. "Right now I am committed to Miami of Ohio, and as of now that’s where I plan on going."

The off-seasons for Biggs will be a ‘big’ one, as he looks to improve on his weaknesses. While he moves well for a player of his size, skating will always be an area of focus.

"This summer I’m actually trying some new things," Biggs said. "I’m trying Pilates three times a week. I’m doing agility work and weightlifting. I’m going to have a pretty busy summer."

Stuart Percy, D – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
1st Round, 25th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 187lbs

With their second selection in the first round, the Maple Leafs took two-way defenseman Stuart Percy. Like Biggs, the Oakville native also expressed his excitement at being drafted by a team he grew up idolizing.

"I’m going to soak it in," said Percy. "It’s pretty surreal that I’m a home town kid as well."

The second-year defenseman for the Mississauga Majors had a very successful season scoring four goals and adding 29 assists for 33 points. What was most impressive about Percy’s game was his plus-minus statistics where he was second on the team with a plus-50.

"I think I’m pretty aware defensively, which makes me a strong defensive player," described Percy.

While Burke may have tipped his hand a bit at the combine, not hiding his heavy interest in the young defender, Percy admits the interest from Burke was there long before the combine.

"He said we had you on the radar all year, and in the Memorial Cup and the playoffs you stepped up and showed you can play in the tough, key, pressure situations," Percy recalled.

With at least two overage defenders moving on next season from the team in Marc Cantin (BOS) and Michael D’Orazio, Percy will have a big opportunity to take a top-pairing role with the club. His focus over the next few seasons will be developing all-round strength to compete for a spot at the pro level.

Josh Leivo, LW – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
3rd Round, 86th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 180lbs

By moving their second round pick (39th) to acquire Biggs, the Maple Leafs stood pat until the third round, where they took a bit of a gamble on a hard-working forward from the Sudbury Wolves; Josh Leivo.

Described as a late-bloomer, Leivo didn’t tally high offensive numbers in his first season with the Wolves. In 64 games he scored 13 goals and added 17 assists for 30 points. What made him a relatively high selection was his playoff performance. In eight games, he was second on the team in scoring with six goals and 13 points which helped the Wolves upset the Ottawa 67’s in round one.

His game continues to blossom as he matures. At 6’2 and only 180lbs, Levio has the ability to fill in his frame with added muscle over the next few seasons. He’s also a naturally skilled athlete who is also a strong baseball player.

With his strong playoff performance, and third-round draft selection, he’ll be expected to produce bigger numbers next season with the Wolves.

Tom Nilsson, D – Mora Jr. (Sweden)
4th Round, 100th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 176lbs

The Maple Leafs only selection out of Europe was the energetic Swedish defenseman Tom Nilsson in the fourth round. Nilsson is another late-bloomer who established himself well for Sweden‘s silver medal team at the recent World U-18s.

Selected on reference from Maple Leafs European scout Tommie Bergman, Nilsson isn’t the biggest defender, but is a very willing combatant. He has a knack for stepping up to deliver big hits even though he’s not the biggest player. This skill draws similarities to Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall.

Aside from his physical game, he’s sound at both ends of the ice, but is more defensive minded than offensive. He’s a good position player in the defensive end, and will become more of a force as he matures.

At 176lbs, he’ll need to bulk up if he intends to bring that type of physicality to the pro game. He’s a late August birthday, so at 17 years old he’ll have plenty of time to work on adding strength.

Tony Cameranesi, C – Wayzata (HS-MN)
5th Round, 130th overall
Height: 5’9, Weight: 162lbs

Dipping into unfamiliar territory for the Maple Leafs, they selected a speedy 5’9 forward named Tony Cameranesi in the fifth round from Wayzata high-school in Minnesota.

Arguably the fastest skater in the draft, Cameranesi doesn’t have great size, but makes up for it in his speed, agility, and tenacity. He’s also a gifted playmaker who has good hands and is able to create scoring chances off the wing.

For Wayzata, the 17-year-old Cameranesi scored 15 goals and added 39 assists for 54 points in 25 games. In the playoffs he scored two goals and assisted seven times in three games. He was named a candidate for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award which is given to the top high-school player.

Cameranesi is projected as a five-year player, as he will be playing for Waterloo (USHL) next season and then going on to likely play four seasons at Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA) starting in 2012-13.

David Broll, LW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
6th Round, 152nd overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 216 lbs

Another big power forward selected by the Maple Leafs was David Broll in round six. Broll combines a mix of skill and deceptively quick feet that make him an interesting prospect.

The 6’2, 216lb forward was once a highly touted OHL prospect, being selected 10th overall by the Erie Otters in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection. After a solid rookie campaign, Broll was dealt at the OHL deadline to the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in an effort to land the Otters more offensive punch.

Prior to the deal, Broll tallied eight goals and 14 assists in 41 games. He scored at around the same pace for the Greyhounds, notching five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 24 games. Broll also participated in 11 fights this year, but a concussion at the hands of Justin Sefton (SJS) in March, ended his ability to fight for the remainder of the season.

At this point, Broll is very much a project pick. In terms of sheer strength, he’s arguably the strongest in the OHL. Due to his skating, size, and untapped skill he could be a steal in the draft if all the tools come together. If he’s unable to establish the offensive side to his game, he still projects as a solid bottom-six player due to his physical attributes.

Dennis Robertson, D – Brown (ECAC)
6th Round, 173rd overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 187lbs

A bit of an unknown, the 20-year-old Robertson was selected by the Maple Leafs with their second pick in the sixth round. An overage pick, Robertson started the year very strongly as a freshman at Brown University, but his play started to decrease as the season wore on.

He ended his rookie year with six goals and 11 assists in 30 games. He was among the starting six-defenders and was also a key fixture on the power-play for Brown.

At 6’1, he’s not the largest defender, but he’s strong on his skates and can lay hits – although not overly physical. He has the ability to play the role of puck-moving, power-play quarterback, but is also reliable as a two-way defender.

Garret Sparks, G – Guelph Storm (OHL)
7th Round, 190th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 200lbs

A surprise pick given the current depth in goal, Garret Sparks was selected with the Maple Leafs first of two seventh round selections. The rookie net minder for the Guelph Storm was selected as a long-term project that goaltending coach Francois Allaire could work with.

At 6’2 and 200lbs, Sparks has the necessary physical attributes and technical skills needed to play the Allaire style. He plays the angles well and uses his massive frame to cover the net. While he fought the puck at points this season, he was also a rookie netminder so an adjustment was expected.

He squeezed in 19 games this season with the Storm, and went 8-6-1 posting a 3.64 goals against average and a .890 save percentage.

With the potential turnover to Guelph’s roster due to graduations, Sparks may have the reigns turned over to him if Brandon Foote doesn’t return. Either way, Sparks will have to prove he’s capable of handling the starting duties of an OHL club next season.

Max Everson, D – Edina (HS-MN)
7th Round, 203rd overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 184lbs

Another Minnesota high-school selection was defenseman Max Everson from Edina. Highly-touted amongst his Minnesota peers, Everson suffered a wrist injury in the playoffs, but was able to battle through it.

Like Percy, Everson is a cerebral player. He thinks the game well and can make safe, calm choices from the defensive end. Offensive potential is there, but his strengths come from a strong defensive game.

In 24 games with Edina High, Everson scored four goals and notched 17 assists for 21 points. He also played in 17 games with the U.S. National U-18 team where he scored one goal and added two assists. Like Cameranesi, Everson was also candidate for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award.

Everson, like many late round selections is a project pick headed to the NCAA. He’ll join his brother at Harvard next season and is likely to play all four years.